Gender differences in primary and secondary education: are girls really outperforming boys?

Author(s): Langen, Annemarie van; Driessen, Geert

Date: 2013

Pages: p. 67-86


A moral panic has broken out in several countries after recent studies showed that girls were outperforming boys in education. Commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Education, the present study examines the position of boys and girls in Dutch primary education and in the first phase of secondary education over the past ten to fifteen years. On the basis of several national and international large-scale databases, the authors examined whether one can indeed speak of a gender gap, at the expense of boys. Three domains were investigated, namely cognitive competencies, non-cognitive competencies, and school career features. The results as expressed in effect sizes show that there are hardly any differences with regard to language and mathematics proficiency. However, the position of boys in terms of educational level and attitudes and behaviour is much more unfavourable than that of girls. Girls, on the other hand, score more unfavourably with regard to sector and subject choice. While the present situation in general does not differ very much from that of a decade ago, it is difficult to predict in what way the balances might shift in the years to come.

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